Early Music America Fall 2012 - (Page 49)

BOOK reviews Edited by Mark Kroll Music as a Science of Mankind in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Maria Semi, translated by Timothy Keates. Ashgate/Farnham, 2012. 185 pages. Reviewed by Anne Davenport. How are sounds and human emotions related? Is musical pleasure wholly sensorial or is it intellectual as well? Does music “progress”? Maria Semi’s slender volume tackles these marvelous questions by presenting rich and important material in a skillfully contextualized discussion. Part I, Chapter 1, introduces the reader to some of the more interesting musical views that flourished in the wake of the Glorious Revolution. Semi analyzes the writings of Joseph Addison, Anthony Ashley Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury), Jeremy Collier, John Dennis, and Sir Richard Steele to bring to light the political dimensions of their views and to show how a lively debate over opera, in particular, served to clarify all that was at stake. She concludes by arguing that Shaftesbury made an especially memorable contribution with his “Trinitarian” vision of music. In Part I, Chapter 2, Semi’s erudition sparkles. Citing the writings of Francis Hutcheson, James Harris, Sir William Jones, Henry Home (Lord Kames), Daniel Webb, Thomas Twining, James Beattie, Thomas Reid, Charles Avison, and Adam Smith, she shows how attempts to grasp the mystery of music in its varied forms gave rise to new anthropological and psychological theories of listening. Under her able guidance, a whole world comes to life. Although Semi devotes a long and insightful discussion to Adam Smith, her personal favorite, it seems, is Charles Avison, whom she credits with having invented the concept of expressiveness—and to whom indeed she returns in Part II. Part II complements Part I in two ways. First, in Chapter 3, Semi leads the reader through a detailed analysis of three treatises on music. Her discussion of Alexander Malcolm’s Treatise of Musick, which was published in Edinburgh in 1721, is especially valuable, since Malcolm is so little studied. Her discussion of John Frederick Lampe’s The Art of Musick, in turn, emphasizes Lampe’s call for composers and musicians to study human nature in order to obtain the right musical effects. She then returns to Charles Avison in order to do full justice to his remarkable Essay on Musical Expression (London, 1752). Secondly, Part II complements Part I by addressing the question of historiography head-on. In Chapter 4, Semi exemplifies her own advocacy of historiography: after presenting the advantages and disadvantages of Charles Burney’s commitment to a linear progression of musical taste and praising Sir John Hawkins for his contrasting lished work on Descartes and on English Catholics in Stuart England. She teaches a seminar at Boston College on “Theories of the Self from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment.” The Sense of Sound. Musical Meaning in France, 1260-1330. Emma Dillon. Oxford University Press, 2012. 367 pages. Reviewed by Anne Davenport. Emma Dillon has written a very luxurious and valuable book. Published with exquisite polish by Oxford University Press, it manages to squeeze a vertiginous wealth of information and ideas into its 367 pages, including 60 illustrations, a bibliography, and an index. The reader is also invited to consult a companion website in which some of the illuminated manuscripts given in illustration are reproduced in color—a rare feast for the eye. (Let me attest personally that the website is user-friendly in the extreme.) As the double title suggests, Dillon does two things, and she does them very well. First, she articulates a fresh theoretical approach to musicology by exploring what she terms the “supermusical.” Drawing on the Russian literary critic Bakhtin but also on such giants of Medieval scholarship as Giles Constable and Caroline Walker Bynum, Dillon argues that musical scores must be allowed to resonate anew with the multiple connotations that are in the music, so to speak, but not of it. Musical scores cannot be properly heard, or assessed, or interpreted, Dillon argues in effect, without some kind of imaginative immersion into a vast acoustic realm of lost practices and street cries. Therefore, Dillon urges, “let’s walk”: let’s leave the classroom, the library, and make the emphatic effort to inhabit vanished acoustic worlds. Her point is that music revolutionized human practice precisely because it emerged from human experience and daily familiarity with sound. Conversely, by becoming aware of the “supermusical,” musicologists might help to restore music’s “spirit of adventure” and encourage Semi’s personal favorite, it seems, is Charles Avison, whom she credits with having invented the concept of expressiveness. approach, Semi concludes by offering her own subtle perspective on the emergence of a musical canon in 18th-century England. Thus the whole book comes together con brio in a strong finale that both contributes a precise new insight into 18th-century musicology and vindicates Semi’s multidisciplinary approach. I recommend this book to a wide audience, including anyone who simply wants to enjoy a good read and take a delightful grand tour to 18th-century England. My only recommendation is that the Introduction be read after the main body of the book. Why? While the translation from Italian of the main part of the book is really quite excellent, the English Introduction (of 20 pages!) is difficult to read and slightly tiresome. In contrast, the main part of the book is crystal clear, absolutely engrossing and satisfying. Anne Davenport did her doctoral work in the history of science at Harvard University. She has pub- Linking to the books: Ashgate/Farnham www.ashgate.com Oxford University Press www.oup.com/us Soundboard Records www.soundboard-records.co.uk Cambridge University Press www.cambridge.org Peter Lang Publishing www.peterlang.com Early Music America Fall 2012 49 http://www.ashgate.com http://www.oup.com/us http://www.soundboard-records.co.uk http://www.cambridge.org http://www.peterlang.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Early Music America Fall 2012

Editor’s Note
EMA Competition
Sound Bytes
Musings: Listening Forward
Profile: A Classical Playlist on Your Cable Television
Recording Reviews
Reconstructing Spanish Songs from the Time of Cervantes
Janet See: Traversist on Two Continents
Musical Mosaic Explores “Perspectives of Interspersing Peoples”
Book Reviews
Ad Index
In Conclusion: Conducting Early Music

Early Music America Fall 2012